How is Eligibility for Special Education Determined?
STEP ONE: The Assessment Plan
The primary assessment provider (e.g. school psychologist, speech therapist, occupational therapist, etc.) will complete an assessment plan. The parent or guardian must sign an assessment plan before the school can begin an individual assessment of a student. Parents must be informed about the assessments' purpose, the methods or techniques which will be used, and the people (by title) who will be conducting the assessment. The purpose of the assessment is to answer one or more questions identified on the assessment plan. The assessment questions are designed to identify the type of services and level of support that will assist the student in attaining the district standards. If a parent does not approve an assessment plan when the district believes an assessment is needed, the district or parent may pursue complaint procedures or proceed to due process.
STEP TWO: The Assessment Process
The assessment of a student is conducted to determine whether or not the student has special needs that qualify him or her for special education services and to assist in instructional planning. Testing should result in the identification of the student's present skill levels and interventions that are likely to be successful. The final step in the process is a team meeting where the separate components of the assessment are brought together. The assessment involves collecting important information from parents or guardians and from qualified district personnel. Information can include:
- Formal/informal test(s) administered in a one-on-one setting.
- Review of school records and district assessments.
- Parent interview
- Teacher interview
- Observation of the student in the classroom and possibly other settings, such as the playground
- Health and developmental history
In addition, the assessment will include reviewing any outside evaluations that have been obtained and made available to the school district. Data gathered during the assessment process will be summarized in written assessment reports. IEP members may want to consider the following questions as they review the assessment reports:
- Based on what we know about the nature of the student's needs, is the assessment thorough?
- Does the assessment provide a clear picture of how the student performs in critical skill or developmental areas? Does the assessment describe the student's areas of strength as well as his or her weaknesses?
- Do the assessment results help to develop instructional or behavioral goals?
- Do the assessment results help to identify interventions that are likely to help the student reach these goals?
- Did the assessment process answer the questions on the Assessment Plan?
Assessment team members can include:
Parents who: (1) review and approve the Assessment Plan, (2) provide health and developmental history, (3) describe the child's responses to tasks and social interactions in the non-schools settings of home, neighborhood and community, and (4) release existing assessment reports if available, including physician's reports.
Teachers who inform the team about the student's academic achievement, physical/motor performance, and social behavior in the classroom.
Health Technician who reviews the student's medical background and physical development, as well as screens hearing and vision.
Speech-Language Pathologist who provides relevant information on speech and language development (if a need is suspected in this area).
School Psychologist who examines the student's social, emotional, academic, and intellectual development.
Adaptive PE Teacher or Occupational Therapist who examines the student's physical and sensory/motor development (if a need is suspected in these areas).